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UN committee to look at efforts of countries to implement key rights treaty

UN committee to look at efforts of countries to implement key rights treaty

The reports of five countries on their efforts to implement a key human rights treaty will top the agenda of a United Nations panel that opened its session today in Geneva.

During its three-week session, the Committee on Human Rights is scheduled to examine reports submitted by the Governments of Ukraine, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Committee is also set to discuss follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.

The countries presenting reports are among the 148 States parties to the Covenant, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1966. The Committee was set up as the monitoring body for the Covenant and periodically examines reports submitted by States parties on their promotion and protection of civil and political rights. Representatives of those Governments will introduce their country reports and respond to oral and written questions by the Committee's 18 members, who serve in their personal capacity.

In her opening address to the Committee, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson stressed that the panel could play a vital role of catalyst by impressing upon States parties to the Covenant the importance of honouring their international obligations.

In her statement, Mrs. Robinson also spoke about the 11 September terror attacks against the United States, emphasizing that the UN was uniquely positioned to advance the efforts and to shape the fight against terrorism. The High Commissioner said, however, that she shared the concerns voiced in a number of countries, including by non-governmental organizations, over some of the provisions relating to refugees and asylum seekers contained in a recent Security Council resolution dealing with terrorism.

"Other UN Conventions already provide a legal framework for many of the steps that must be taken to eradicate terrorism," Mrs. Robinson told the Committee, which is meeting for its 73rd session. "These conventions must be implemented in full."

The High Commissioner also emphasized that the terror attacks were the acts of individuals and "should not bring about retribution against one people, or one religion." In addition, she expressed her deep concern for the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. "As winter approaches," Mrs. Robinson said, "an estimated 7.5 million are at risk from starvation unless food and humanitarian assistance reaches them."